Small Victories and a Sliding Dog

We slept in our new house for the first time last night. Woke to gray light coming through gray curtains. I had dreams about Paris and La Familia, the pool in Baker where I used to swim. It has only been a week, and that neighborhood feels like snow-covered streets in a different city. (The above photo was taken from the side of the house where the lack of bars on the windows makes it look less ghetto than it does from the front). My friend Libby said that after she and her husband first bought their house, they really felt at home when they could get up and make coffee in their own kitchen. That’s what I did today. In my new Cuisinart EXTREME Coffee Maker I got for Christmas. This is a new frontier for us since we’ve always made our coffee in the French press. (Not extreme.) I had to drive Sunflower Market on 38th to get milk (our neighborhood sounds like a Sesame Street episode: Megan who lives in Sunnyside drives to Sunflower Market for her milk and eggs). I got the milk and eggs, then I had to get gas, all the while thinking about how my coffee turned out on the black corian counters I have mixed feelings about. On the Save-a-Lot sign half-way home, the deal this week is pig’s feet and beef tripe for 99 cents a pound. I wonder how many people in Sunnyside eat swine feet and cow stomach.

I’d only been in the Sunnyside Save-a-Lot once a few weeks ago when Luke desperately needed a 5-hour energy, but all I could find there was bulk puffed cereal and juices in colorful jugs with Mexican names on them. In New Orleans, the Save-a-Lot on Carrolton was where we shopped after the storm hit, and the cans of beans were 29 cents each, bags of rice a dollar, and this all went on FEMA food stamps and we ate, if not in content, in the amounts of kings.

I would like to believe this neighborhood has similarities to New Orleans. There’s a new speakeasy on 32nd we saw last night when we went out for burgers with some friends who bought their house up the street a year before we bought ours. I can’t decide if a speakeasy here is a cool thing or just another nostalgic trend to satisfy people who wish they had been alive when less was available and indulgences were more prohibited. Before eating my blue cheese covered burger, I did take interest in the speakeasy (though at that point I didn’t know what it was—the exterior walls of the place are black and there are books on shelves in the windows, leading me to think that it was a “late night bookstore” which I said to Luke, then realized of course it wasn’t.) A late night bookstore is one of many places I would like to open. There would be wine. There would be silence. A girl could go there alone on Friday night and not be a weirdo.

Also, I would like to invent a wall x-ray machine. I’m trying to find out which walls in this house are load-bearing and which have brick inside them, and there’s really no good way to do this besides beating the living hell out of the sheet rock and lathen plaster with a hammer. I know this must not be the right way to go about investigating, but there’s really no other way to do it. I have learned that if you go in the basement, the floor joists will run perpendicular to the supporting walls of the house. But this doesn’t help. In our crawl space, a brick wall runs north-south under the whole structure, while upstairs, after taking off an electrical plate on said wall, it appears that inside the upstairs portion of that wall, there’s only splintered wood and the fuzz of areas not meant to be seen. This does not help me as what I’m going for is either exposed brick (warm, reminds me of baking bread and cozying up by the fire, centipedes and poor insulation, be damned. (I have read that in some exterior brick walls, centipedes comes through the mortar when it’s warm out). GROSS!!!)

Anne, my friend since the age of 3, came over yesterday and had the same thought as me. Break down all the walls on the first floor! Luke told her to leave. She was right. After our last place, I think I might miss open space. Although, it is nice here to have a room for cooking and a room for sitting and a room for fireplacing, and to not wake up when your brother is staying with you and to have to make coffee in the same room where he is sleeping. Anne and I share the same Catholic school-girl heart. We will live beautiful lives! We will abide by stories of more importance than boring old reality! We will go to Paris! (Hence the dream).

Here is the difficulty: I have measured most lessons and mistakes according to the rooms of my past, and now here I am with the many rooms of my present (more so rooms of my own than any before), and I am not sure how to orient myself to this space or it to me. I know that moving in takes a long time, but the people who owned this place before made choices that are plaguing me. Mostly decorative, I admit, but still—textured walls throughout the house, a cat piss-smelling perfectly wasted pantry space (above), 80’s knobs on the kitchen cabinets, sheet rock that covers half the trim on the windows. I woke up this morning and looked at the ceiling fan (why do men love ceiling fans?), and I thought, what the hell? I look forward to the day that I do not wake up thinking this.

Quincy was crying at the foot of the bed because he refuses to walk on the laminate floors. He gets trapped upstairs and in the kitchen until I drag him out, all four legs going sideways and spinning in futility like a hamster in a wheel. This does not bode well for him as we intend to be here for the rest of his life. Here is a picture of his hourly dilemma: to cross or to not cross the slippery threshold. I am partially torturing him by putting his food on the slick floors so he learns his rewards for risk-taking.

I am generally not a vain person, but something about house design does make me feel like I am. I have become obsessed with magazines and blogs and DIY projects; color palettes dance through my head in the car, in bed, in church. We bought eight paint colors last night, and only two of them worked. I went a little overzealous on the green choice (Lemon Pepper looks like what ends up in the toilet when you’ve eaten only salad for a week) and Luke’s orange for the stairs resembles the curtains in my parents’ house in Aurora circa 1978. Luke mudded over two square feet of the textured wall, though, and it is so gloriously smooth and it will take so long to do all the rest, but I want that scratchy texture gone, so what do I do? This is the question: how do we spend our days, with all that needs to be done?

In K-Mart this week, my mom saw two women buying all the layaway toys for kids whose parents didn’t have money to buy them what they wanted for Christmas. I have to admit, redoing a house this time of year has two sides to it: we’ve been blessed to receive many gifts that are helping us immensely along the way, but I question how much of this is too much, and how much people need—the ones who are buying pig’s feet for 99 cents this morning, or the haggard woman who stumbled into the gas station on 38th for cigarettes. Still. On my way home aside my cage-free eggs, I thought about how appropriate Nocturnal Sea would be for the back entryway.

And, there are small victories in our new home even amidst all the debris; my Extreme Coffee tastes a little better than the electricity-free kind I’ve always made.